Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Race of My Characters

Specifically, the race of my main characters. I do my best to write racially neutral characters. I do my best to give physical traits without mentioning skin color, or race at all.

I grew up in an area that was pretty diverse and I hope that my stories appeal to a wide range of people. There wasn’t much of a ‘minority’ in the area. There wasn’t an Asian family in the area until a Panda Express opened up (that’s not a joke) and there was only one African American family in town until I hit high school. My heritage is a healthy mix of the continent of Europe and I’ve been gifted with olive skin.I don’t know if I’d do a proper representation of another race, so I just write the character as much as I can and let the reader decide. The hardest part so far has been the names. Finding a racially neutral name that could be given to anyone is something of a balancing act.

In Bad Mojo Blues, I chose the name Marcus for the main character. While I do mention a few choice style elements, I do my best to make his skin color something of a non-issue. The area of New Mexico where I grew up is the place that seed for the setting. When I was growing up it no one really cared about what race you were, there as this general sense of resigned suffering that everyone seemed to have. Sure, there were racists here and there, but for the majority people were judged by their station in life rather than their skin, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to set the story in a similar place.

I had friends who were Native American, Mexican, Spanish, and White. We would tell each other racist jokes in the lunchroom and make fun of each other like teenagers are prone to do. We talked about girls, cars, driving, and had hushed conversations about superheroes so other people wouldn’t hear us.We made fun of the fat kid for being fat, the skinny kid for being skinny, and me for being strange. It was just a bunch of teenage guys talking, race didn’t factor into the conversations.

I’m not naive enough to think that race doesn’t matter, it plays a big part in the foundation of a person, but I don’t want it to be an issue with my writing. I don’t want someone to think ‘this character is white’ when they read Marcus. My aim is not to write racial characters, I want to write strong ones. The good guys, the bad guys, and the characters in the space between.


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